Friday, January 17, 2014

Rural Alberta Advantage/The Kopecky Family Band/Mutual Benefit; January 17, 2014; Lincoln Hall

I started watching The LA Complex on Netflix because Entertainment Weekly had sung its praises and because it starred Jewel Staite, who Firefly fans know as Kaylee.  A criminally under-rated show that lasted only a season and a half, which despite the name was filmed in Vancouver not LA, it languished in my saved queue for two years before it was available streaming.  The show follows a group of struggling actors, actresses, comedians and filmmakers who all live in a run-down motel where there always happens to be a band playing out by the pool.  For the first half dozen episodes it was the likeable Whale Shark, but when season two started the voice was much more recognizable.  I thought I could skip this Rural Alberta Advantage show, but after seeing them singing poolside and from balconies, I realized I was wrong.  I can understand why people might not like lead singer Nils Edenloff’s voice, much the way Neutral Milk Hotel, whom the RAA take obvious influence from, isn’t for everyone.  But personally, I find it addictive.

They hadn’t put out a record since 2011’s The Departing so I was a little surprised they were touring.  Turns out they were using these handful of shows to try out new material and half their set was unreleased.  Whether it was familiar or not, it all sounded great.  The band set up in a straight line across the stage, drummer Paul Banwatt stage left, Edenloff center, and keyboard player and backing vocalist Amy Cole on the other side.  They were obviously energized and excited by the new songs and the crowd response to them.  For their enthusiastically demanded encore they made their way off the stage and into the hushed crowd, playing the final songs of the night completely unplugged.  Edenloff had no trouble projecting his voice so that it could be heard over the entire Lincoln Hall floor.  It was an intimate moment to end a night that had it highs and lows.

The highs and lows were embodied in the opening bands.  Since this was the Tomorrow Never Knows festival, the line-up was put together by festival organizers and well, you never know.  Middle band the Kopecky Family Band certainly had their fans, but I wasn’t one of them.  The lead singer’s over the top enthusiasm, ridiculous Stevie Nicks-ish outfit (the “Tusk” cover wasn’t a coincidence), and claim that even though they weren’t related her band was her family, made me slightly nauseous.  The first band on the slate, however, was a revelation.  Mutual Benefit from Brooklyn played dreamy, but not boring, orchestral pop that I fell for instantly.  The lead singer reminded me of Ezra Furman, if he were properly medicated.  The tall, handsome violin player was often a distraction (physically not musically).  Turns out before this tour most of their show had been house concerts, I gave their merch girl my card and told her to have them get in touch.  The CD I bought from her wasn’t as good as the songs they played live, I’m guessing this is a band that has grown quickly, but I’ll be looking for an opportunity to see them again.   

Now get on Netflix and start streaming the LA Complex!

Mutual Benefit

 The Kopecky Family Band

Rural Alberta Advantage

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